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What is Meatspace?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2016
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The term “meatspace” is used in some communities to describe the real, physical world, in contrast with virtual reality or cyberspace. Some computer users refer to doing things “in the meatspace,” and the term also pops up in science fiction novels, especially those in the cyberpunk genre. The term can be taken and used in a number of ways, depending on how one views the contrast between virtual reality and the physical world.

Obviously, the “meat” in “meatspace” is a reference to real, physical bodies. For people who spend a lot of time in cyberspace, often developing rich and complex relationships there, the main difference between people in the real world and people in cyberspace is that real world people also have physical bodies, with their own advantages and limitations. While the vision of physical bodies as meat is perhaps a bit crude, it's a very apt description in the eyes of some.

Some people believe that the term “real world” is a bit derogatory, demeaning the rich and complex culture of life in virtual realities or cyberspace. These individuals often prefer to describe the outside world as meatspace because they view this term as less socially charged; both cyberspace and meatspace are spaces, with the prefixes being used to describe the nature of each space in an easily-understood shorthand.

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Individuals who spend a lot of time on the computer may also specify that a situation occurred in meatspace to differentiate it from a virtual or online situation. In groups where both settings are equally likely, qualifying terms can be very helpful to set the scene for people who are hearing about the situation. Terms like “meatspace friend” may also be used, to emphasize that the friend in question is someone in the physical world, and that both parties have actually met and interacted face to face.

Writers and artists sometimes use the term as well, even if they don't spend a lot of time in virtual settings, to underscore the fact that they often live very isolated lives, rarely interacting with people in the outside world. Some of these individuals make an effort to spend more time in the meatspace, both to search for inspiration and to feel less isolated, while others prefer to limit their contact with the outside world so that they can focus on their work.

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